Aug 31, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach speaks to Washington State Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday (12) on the sidelines at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Though it’s still not known whether or not Washington State (6-6) will be invited to a bowl game this season, it’s clear they have accomplished a great deal in 2013 to earn the opportunity.
Coach Mike Leach and his staff led one of the most astonishing turnarounds of any major college football program over the course of the past two seasons.
Leach hasn’t done it with slight of hand or mirrors. No, the venerable head coach has applied a combination of work ethic, teaching fundamental football and implementing a pass-happy offense designed to befuddle defensive coordinators facing his squad on the field of play.
Jeff Sagarin established a ranking system back in 1985 for college football that serves as a barometer of just how good a team is, guided by their performance.
By applying his formulas and algorithms to team stats, Sagarin produces a best-to-worst ranking system which has been a staple for football fans and is published weekly in USAToday.
Incorporated in the methodology employed by Sagarin is a team’s won/loss record, strength of an opponent, home field advantage and margin of victory. However, there is no reward for running up a score. Specific weight given to how these factors are applied isn’t divulged by Sagarin for obvious reasons. The graduate of MIT isn’t about to share ‘trade secrets’.
A look at Sagarin’s ranking from the end of last season to the end of this season is telling about Washington State football.
Following the first year with Coach Leach at the helm, the Cougs finished the 2012 season ranked No. 104 out of 246 teams. Their final record was 3-9 playing the 31st toughest schedule in the nation. The only conference team ranked lower than WSU in 2012 was Colorado who plummeted to No. 156.
Yes, when you compete in the Pac-12 your team is going to have a schedule loaded with the best teams in the land.
So where does WSU rank after completing their 12-game schedule with six wins?
Cougar football soared from No. 104 to No. 34. That’s one heckuva leap in just a year. And it certainly wasn’t because Washington State had an easier schedule.
According to Sagarin, WSU played the second toughest slate of teams in college football in 2013, which makes their improved performance even more impressive.
Looking around the Pac-12, WSU topped Oregon State (No. 36), Colorado (No. 76) and Cal (No. 121). Utah finished at No. 33, just ahead of the Cougs.
As the folks on various selection committees for post season bowls decide which teams they invite, the Sagarin rating system will likely be one measurement. It’s been a part of the Bowl Championship Series criteria since beginning, dating back to 1998. If Sagarin is good enough for the BCS, it’s good enough for the rest of the bowls.
Since it takes 70 teams to fill out the 35-game bowl schedule this year, it makes sense the lay down the claim, “Washington State has earned a bowl invitation”.